ABU DHABI // Ahmad Al Jaber, a pioneering member of the FNC, remembers a time when they used to work “day and night for the country to stand on its feet and reach the development we see today”.
Mr Al Jaber, from Umm Al Quwain, was one of the members who launched the FNC in 1972. He was also the first to greet Sheikh Zayed outside the council’s chambers when he arrived for the opening session, along with the speaker, Thani bin Humaid.
Mr Al Jaber described the early days as filled with excitement.
“We raised different issues and raised hundreds of questions,” he said.
While the council’s enthusiasm for its work remained undiminished, he recalled a “turning point in ministries’ cooperation” with the FNC, from 1974 to 1978.
Sheikh Zayed had requested live television coverage of the sessions and he used to watch them, “so when this happened the ministries paid more attention to the council’s requests”.
“He wanted things to flow quickly and for the people to know the role of the council,” Mr Al Jaber said.
He remembered a day when the FNC received a request from a Sharjah hospital to discuss faulty equipment.
“When Sheikh Zayed heard about this, a committee was formed by myself and five [FNC] members, and he ordered a military helicopter to take us there immediately. We took a legal counsellor with us and two specialist doctors from the Ministry of Health.”
They investigated the issue and presented a detailed report to Sheikh Zayed who “summoned the health minister on the same day”.
“And that was the case with all requests, not just this hospital.”
FNC members at the time also worked closely with legal officials setting the law, as they adopted models from countries such as Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
“Even if they were men of the law, they used to consult with us on many issues, I used to stay late at night with them.
“We grew up from nothing before the union, so we effectively contributed.”
Also when members studied important internal issues – such as agriculture and fish resources – but faced budget shortages, they would go directly to Sheikh Zayed and he granted them extra funding.
Mr Al Jaber, who served until 1979, still follows the council’s proceedings.
“I wish for the current FNC term to revise all the previous early sessions to see how it worked with the federation to reach where we are today.”
If in some cases, the ministries and members were unable to reach a resolution, “there is nothing that prevents them from meeting with the president and supreme council. At least once a year to overcome obstacles”.
Mr Al Jaber did not rely on the council’s sessions to show his support for the UAE as a country.
In 1976, he led a parade of 5,000 people from Umm Al Quwain to Sheikh Zayed, who was at the airport palace in Al Ain, to pledge their loyalty and support for the union.
“Nationals from across the emirates joined us that Friday, as we carried a message to support all that Zayed wanted to carry out in the welfare of this nation,” he said.
Before joining the FNC, when he was 25 years old, Mr Al Jaber was a manager at the Kuwait government’s hospital in Dubai. He was also a member of the development council during the Trucial States [as the seven sheikhdoms were known] period.
When the British announced their departure, the development council was replaced by an Abu Dhabi development office, based in Sharjah and funded by Sheikh Zayed, of which he also was a member.
After that, Mr Al Jaber was appointed to the FNC as a representative of Umm Al Quwain from 1972 to 1975. He was an Abu Dhabi member from 1975 to 1979.
“Sheikh Zayed honoured me and gave me the Abu Dhabi seat the last two years,” he said.